Don't take a holiday from keeping school skills sharp 

click to enlarge If you're outdoorsy and like to take advantage of the natural beauty here in Northern California, take time to read a map or online guide books before heading to the park together. - JIM COLE/AP
  • Jim Cole/AP
  • If you're outdoorsy and like to take advantage of the natural beauty here in Northern California, take time to read a map or online guide books before heading to the park together.

This week, students are taking final exams, turning in essays and enjoying end of semester parties. We are fast approaching the winter break.

San Francisco Unified School District schools are closed Dec. 22-Jan. 5 so that students and school staff can be with their families.

So, does the learning stop? Not at all. Here are a few easy things to do to keep younger kids learning while on the winter break.

Bake up some science

Do you have a favorite family cookie recipe? Have your child gather ingredients, read the recipe together and let your child do all the measuring. Talk to your child about how cooking is a science, involves math and how you need to double-check your calculations to make sure everything turns out delicious! (Ooops, measured wrong and it didn't turn out perfectly? Try again! Mistakes and perseverance are a vital part of learning.)

Let their imagination lead to math

Math comes naturally to kids if they are building something that takes imagination. If you have a Lego set lying around, spend some time with your child building things. Ask questions like "How many Legos will it take to build your tower?" Or, "What would you need to make a pattern like a snowflake with your Legos?" Your child will be naturally using math.

Sneak in some reading

If you're outdoorsy and like to take advantage of the natural beauty here in Northern California, take time to read a map or online guide books before heading to the park together. Rained in? Here's a free, old-school thing to try -- your local library. Turn a gloomy afternoon into a treasure hunt for books. You can apply for a card right there (bring photo ID and proof of address) and you'll be checking out books in no time.

Leave things around

At home, have newspapers, catalogs and books around the home to spark your child's interests. Big coffee table books are great ways to start young kids' exploring new topics. Children are naturally curious and will choose good reading material if it's available.

You are a teacher. Yes, you!

And this brings up something I cannot say enough to parents: You are your child's first teacher. Taking time to do a quick math problem just for fun, finding something interesting to read, and talking about school shows your child that his or her education -- inside and outside the classroom -- is important to you.

Everyone have a safe and happy holiday season. I'll be back with more about our schools in January.

Richard A. Carranza is the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. His column is taking a holiday break and will return Jan. 6.

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